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Updated: 2017-11-06T01:52:27.888-06:00

 



The Hugo Stiglitz Chronicles, Volume Four

2016-02-26T07:00:18.096-06:00

More Stiglitz mini-reviews for you to skim.  Enjoy.El culebrero(1998)Here is the story of a drunk layabout, clad all in black, who shares a special affinity with snakes.  He is being followed, as he stumbles throughout the film, by a strikingly beautiful woman, also clad completely in black.  Stiglitz plays a powerful land baron with a wealth of affectations:  cigar, glass of tequila, faithful dog always at his side, wheelchair, and oxygen tank.  Yes, Stiglitz is disabled in this one, but his character is full of piss and vinegar.  A decent fellow lives in the shadow of Stiglitz’s hacienda with a small farm, accompanied by his lovely wife and teenage daughter.  He needs Stiglitz to cut him a break.  The drunk layabout kills a few of Stiglitz’s peeps.  Then, purely by accident, the drunk layabout witnesses the death of Stiglitz’s weed dealer by heart attack.  He brings the corpse to the local police station, and when Stiglitz sees his dead homey next to the drunk layabout (still clad in all black), he is certain that he is the killer.  The decent fellow, who needs Stiglitz to give him a break, is recruited by Stiglitz to kill the drunk layabout.  He cannot bring himself to do it, because, after all, he is a decent fellow and the drunk layabout is an okay guy.  So, Stiglitz has his henchman kidnap the decent fellow’s wife and daughter to force him to kill the drunk layabout.  The two men have a showdown, but the strikingly beautiful woman, also clad completely in black, intercedes; and the decent fellow and the drunk layabout join forces to rescue the women and take down Stiglitz.  If this synopsis does not make a lot of sense, then that’s cool.El culebrero is a modern-day Western with some odd themes thrown in.  In a signature shot, the drunk layabout gets ambushed by some of Stiglitz’s hitmen.  He feigns death, and as the hitman search his horse basket, they find a bundle of snakes.  One of the hitmen kills the snakes with his automatic rifle.  The drunk layabout loses his shit, subdues a nearby hitman, grabs his weapon, and kills the entire group of assailants.  The drunk layabout keeps a snake inside of his shirt, like a pet, and at opportune times, he pulls snakes from his pockets and wields them like weapons.  The strikingly beautiful women, also clad completely in black, appears almost in a supernatural role, like the guardian angel of the drunk layabout.  Stiglitz yells at people; drinks tequila, smokes cigars; and sucks oxygen from his tank.  El culebrero is definitely weird, yet it is nothing special for Stiglitz fans.La noche de la bestia(1988)Stiglitz and four of his homies go to a secluded shack for a hunting party.  On the first day, there is male bonding, hunting, drinking, more drinking, and more male bonding.  On the second day, after a morning of hunting, Stiglitz and his homies see a beautiful woman running on the shore of the lake, with armed pursuers following in a jeep.  The beautiful woman and her pursuers are all wearing the same yellow jumpsuit.  One of Stiglitz’s homies gets shot, and the rest of his crew kill the pursuers and rescue the woman.  They bring their injured homey inside along with the woman.  They tend to his wounds, and the woman collapses from exhaustion.  Stiglitz and his homies are in possession of an operational automobile.  Do they go the police and report this incident? No.  First, let’s back up.During the opening shot of La noche de la bestia, the yellow-jumpsuit-ed team packs some TNT into the side of a mountain and detonate their bomb.  They remove a large clump of glowing ore.  During the second night of the hunting party of Stiglitz and his homies, they go outside the shack when they hear a loud explosion.  Over the horizon, with state-of-the-art special effects, they witness a nuclear explosion.  They chalk it off to the doings of the locals.  The following day the shootou[...]



The Fighter (Le battant) (1983)

2016-02-24T07:00:17.648-06:00

On the day he gets out of prison, Jacques Darnay (Alain Delon) is looking over his shoulder.  Darnay took the wrap: during a jewel heist eight years previously, the store owner was murdered and a cache of diamonds worth six million francs was stolen.  The police knew that Darnay had an accomplice but could not identify him.  The diamonds were never recovered.  As a result, Darnay served a reduced sentence; and at the start of Le battant (The Fighter) (1983), he is now free.  In the opening scene of the film, one of Darnay’s homies, Mignot (Michel Beaune) gets a visit from three well-dressed assailants who tell him to turn on Darnay or die.  The crooks want the diamonds.  The police inspector, Rouxel (Pierre Mondy), who busted Darnay from the original heist, wants to find Darnay’s accomplice who murdered the store owner.  More importantly, it seems Rouxel also wants to collect the ten-percent finder’s fee for locating the missing diamonds.  If Darnay locates the diamonds, then he is dead.  If he does not, then the people close to him will start dying.  Most interestingly, does Darnay even know where the diamonds are stashed?Delon plays The Fighter close.  He wants his viewer to feel the desperation of a man constantly looking over his shoulder for an awaiting killer and also wants his viewer question his rationale and motives:  is this desperate life worth all of the trouble?  Darnay sees Mignot soon after his release from prison and within minutes of meeting the man, Mignot is gunned down.  Mignot’s death enforces for Darnay how serious his pursuers are.  Beautiful Clarissa (Marie-Christine Descouard), Darnay’s lover before he went away to prison, accepts Darnay with open arms and no questions asked when he arrives at the doorstep of her flat.  After Mignot’s murder, Darnay tries to hide Clarissa but to no avail:  she dies in Darnay’s arms after getting gunned down.  As Le battant unfolds from this point, it becomes clear to Darnay (and to the viewer) that he can no longer trust anyone and is going to have to kill everyone who stands in his way.I am a mark for both Alain Delon and gritty Eurocrime flicks.  Delon gives an odd performance as Darnay.  In all of the action sequences, Delon is cold and icy, like the bad motherfucker he played in Tony Arzenta (1973).  However, Darnay is all too eager to crack a joke, most often at the expense of Rouxel.  This blend of black humor and cold violence does not come off like a Fernando di Leo antihero, like Ringoor Johnny Yuma.  Di Leo composed characters who had a death wish and were laughing towards their end.  Delon’s performance of Darnay belies that appearance.  Anne Parillaud appears as Nathalie, who is offered to Darnay for a thousand francs for one evening by his homey in the underworld, Ruggeri (Franςois Périer).  After their bout of lovemaking, Nathalie breaks down to Darnay and begs him to free her from her abusive relationship with Ruggeri.  Darnay agrees and puts her up in a hideout.  Nathalie helps Darnay by identifying the Ruggeri’s accomplices, so Darnay knows exactly who is following him.  It is apparent, however, that Darnay does not trust Nathalie:  she is either still working for Ruggeri or is attempting to get the diamonds for herself.  It is also apparent that Darnay has strong feelings for her and wants to trust her.  This human side to Darnay creates a schism in his character which makes his violent actions more disturbing.  Delon’s Darnay comes off as a very well-composed and violent sociopath.  He is not an antihero but more like a sick person.Anne Parillaud does not appear in Le battant really until its middle and her inclusion in the film raises its interest.  She stole all of Delon’s thunder in their previous collaboration, Pour la peau d’un flic (1981), and while her character is nowhere as rich as her previous role, Par[...]



The Night of the Executioner (La noche del ejecutor) (1993)

2016-02-08T07:00:05.966-06:00

The Night of the Executioner (La noche del ejecutor) (1993) is a nasty exploitation film, starring Paul Naschy, who also wrote and directed.Naschy plays Dr. Hugo Arranz, a successful surgeon, who is spending his fiftieth birthday with his wife and teenage daughter at his home.  While they were shopping earlier in the evening, a thug spied on them and noticed that Dr. Arranz carried a large sum of money.  This thug and his crew have now invaded the Arranz home during dinner.  They rape and murder Arranz’s wife.  They rape and murder his daughter in front of him, while he remains beaten and bound with his tongue cut out.  The thugs presume Arranz dies, but he survives.  Now unable to speak, Arranz hits the gym and pumps iron; conditions himself with jogging; and becomes seriously adept at firearms and throwing knives.  All that is left is to find the thugs responsible for the deaths of his loved ones.  Back at his home, fresh from the hospital, Arranz finds a flyer for a local bar.  There is a name inscribed upon the back, “Gloria.”  Naschy writes that, “It has been said that this film is a copy of Death Wish, the film starring the ever impassive Charles Bronson.  There is a grain of truth in that statement but I approached the film from a totally Spanish viewpoint, with the Madrid criminal underworld in mind.  I wanted to make a movie that reflected the sordid side of certain parts of the capital.” (1)  Naschy was inspired to write the screenplay after an experience that he had one evening leaving the gym. (2) He writes:“Suddenly three scruffy youths appeared in front of me.  They looked like they were out for trouble.  Two of them whipped out hunting knives and I knew what I was in for.  I don’t know exactly what thoughts flashed through my mind at that moment, I just reacted instinctively.  Dropping my sports bag to the ground I quickly unzipped it and got hold of the thick protective belt used for power lifting.  I could feel rage boiling up inside me.  Maybe it was the pure anger of frustration that I’d had to hold back so many times in my life or maybe I saw those thugs as a symbol of all the bastards who’ve had it in for me down the years.  The fact is I just went for them with a vengeance and left two of them in a really bad way.  ¶ It looked like I wasn’t going to be so lucky with the third assailant but, fortunately, the headlights of a passing car put the wind up them and they made a run for it.” (3)Naschy’s screenplay also embraces the current discourse in regards to the current system of justice, criminals’ rights vis-à-vis the rights of their victims.  Clearly Naschy sides with the victims.  For example, the character of Olga, a magistrate and close friend of Dr. Arranz, advocates for a better criminal justice system and reforming jails and prisons to make them true rehabilitation facilities.  The thugs who assault Dr. Arranz’s family later gang rape the woman in her garage.  Subsequent to her assault, now a victim, Olga ceases to be a staunch advocate for criminal rights but she does not wholly abandon her causes.  I believe Olga, like Naschy with his screenplay, sees the issue as not a completely academic one and one which must confront the rights of victims.Naschy never abandons his lofty ideals in Night and he certainly is not reticent to put the sensationalism on display.  In a creative scene, Arranz busts through a window like The Terminator upon two thugs in their apartment.  He ices one with his magnum, and with the other, the lone female in the group of thugs who attacked his family, he hesitates.  Naschy’s character has a Bergman/Von Sydow/Virgin Spring moment, where he can see his criminal as human when begging for mercy.  However, Arranz is so overcome with vengeance that he cannot stop his parade of violence.  He ices her.  (This character was shown ear[...]



The Sleep of Death (1978)

2016-02-06T07:00:05.185-06:00

The Sleep of Death(1978) is a pretty cool Euro production that lost a chance at an audience in the late seventies during the Rise of the Blockbuster.Based on a story by Sheridan le Fanu, Sleep is about English aristocrat, Robert (Brendan Price), who longs to visit Post-Revolution Paris to gamble, to drink, and to consort with various continental women.  His father will not allow him to do so and arranges for him to be married.  However, fortuitously for Robert, he dies before his wishes are fulfilled.  It’s off to France with his manservant, Sean (Niall Toibin).  En route to Paris, Robert’s coach is almost driven off the road by a sinister-looking coach, replete with the crest of a Dragon.  Inside, Robert catches a glimpse of a beautiful woman.  Robert’s coach gives chase, and they find the sinister-looking coach at an inn outside Paris.  While dining, Robert meets the Marquis (Patrick Magee) who offers to accompany Robert to Paris and introduce him into society.  Colonel Gaillard (Per Oscarsson) arrives at the inn with his guard and he threatens the Count (Curd Jürgens) and his wife, Countess Elga (Marilù Tolo).  Robert steps in and subdues the Colonel.  The beautiful young woman, whom Robert spied within the sinister-looking coach, is the Countess.  Robert is smitten and follows the Countess (with the Marquis) to Paris that very evening.  A young chambermaid is murdered that evening with her throat torn out.  Colonel Gaillard seems suspicious but unsurprised and follows onto Paris…Sleep is set during a very interesting historical period, the rise of the Enlightenment and the end of Superstition.  It is within these two schools where the filmmakers, screenwriters Calvin and Yvonne Floyd with direction by Calvin, frame their narrative.  One of the most interesting questions to be posed within such a narrative is, “Could one who is so ‘enlightened’ exploit the superstitions of those around him for his own gain?”  The drama which unfolds in Sleep gives an answer to this question.  During my first viewing of Sleep, I brought my own memories of le Fanu cinema and saw them in the production.  Tolo, who plays the Countess, is eerily evocative of Ingrid Pitt who played in the excellent le Fanu adaptation, The Vampire Lovers(1970).  Both actresses were about the same age in their respective roles.  Sleep also has direct allusions with imagery taken from Carl Theodor Dryer’s masterpiece, Vampyr (1932).  During a second viewing, I was able to put those memories aside and see how cleverly crafted the narrative is.  Sleep is really told from the point of view of Robert, and all the characters appear to the viewer as they would to Robert—The Countess is beautiful and seductive; the Marquis is a kind confidant; and the Colonel seems overzealous and crazy.  Since Sleepis a historical piece, the costumes and the apparent authentic locations also contribute to the narrative’s seductive beauty.  About midway through the film, when Robert attends a masquerade ball hosted by the Count and the Countess, it becomes obvious that Robert is being set-up.  As to what kind of ending Robert is being primed, this remains a mystery.Patrick Magee and Per Oscarsson are two amazing actors who give easily the best performances in Sleep.  During the final act, when both of their characterizations have a full turn is when both shine.  I especially love how their two story arcs are concluded, with especial note to Oscarsson’s character:  his character’s ending is cryptic, and I use that word with more than one meaning.  The Sleep of Death is an adult drama, wrapped tightly in mystery, for the curious to seek out. [...]



Sara (1997)

2016-02-04T07:00:17.292-06:00

Sara (1997) is an amazing Polish film, primarily because it has an overarching commercial appeal and is dealing with rather transgressive subject matter.  Or maybe not.  Sara could be classified with its American ilk, like the Kick-Assfilms, big studio films with big actors whose subject matter is, let’s say, “edgy.”  Or…I’m just getting old.Leon (Boguslaw Linda) is a decorated soldier, returning home to his loving wife and two child daughters after a tour.  While he is in the kitchen of his flat with his wife, Leon carelessly leaves his pistol in open view.  One of his daughters picks it up and fires it at her sister.  Cut to a few years later and Leon is still in his flat, but his wife and child have left him.  He has been seeking serious solace in the bottle.  He gets a call from one of his homies to meet a wealthy client for a protection job.  Leon arrives at the meeting place, an upscale bar, and is immediately rebuffed by the wealthy client for being a drunk.  A trio of armed thugs storm the bar, and Leon saves the client’s life.  As gratitude, the wealthy client gives Leon a job and helps him clean up his life.  The job he gives Leon is simple:  protect his teenage daughter, Sara (Agnieszka Wlodarcyzk), as the wealthy client’s enemies may harm her to get to him.  This job turns out to be simple but not easy for Leon…The narrative of Sarais the romantic comedy, familiar in the American tradition.  Leon and Sara’s relationship begins with playful antagonism:  initially, Leon’s only real task is dropping off and picking up Sara from school.  One evening, however, she wants to attend the basketball game and dance after.  Leon shadows her the entire evening, and visibly irritated and perturbed, Sara steals the car keys from one of her bodyguards and escapes in the car.  Leon gives chase on foot, and Sara has an auto collision on the road.  From within the other car emerges an armed assailant, and Leon shields Sara with his body, absorbing the bullets and saving her life.  (Leon was wearing his bulletproof vest and survives.  Sara’s father moves him into his manor to recuperate.)  Leon now wants to quit but Sara won’t let him:  she has declared her love for him.  Leon has a bit of dilemma regarding the coquettish young lady’s feelings.Subsequent to his tragedy, depicted in the first act of Sara, the viewer can clearly discern that Leon has a death wish.  There is not much that he is willing to lose or afraid of risking.  Sara begins after her declaration of love seducing Leon, and Leon, after some initial reticence, complies to having a sexual relationship with her.  Sara’s seduction scenes take upon the oddest aspect:  each composition seemingly is not a subjective composition, intended solely for the character of Leon; but rather, the compositions of Sara seem directed towards the viewer.  While the dialogue remains playfully antagonistic between the two, there is something disturbing about Sara’s seduction scenes.  Slowly, Leon begins to articulate warmer feelings towards Sara, and the two have a dinner date at a Chinese restaurant.  They have a sweet tango scene on the dance floor (a la Scent of a Woman (1992) and True Lies (1994)).  Included also is a scene where Leon, in his flat of all places, rides in circles upon his bicycle while Sara rides upon the handlebars.  (I almost started humming “Raindrops keep falling on my head” during this scene.)  The juxtaposition of Sara’s seduction scenes with the sweet, romantic comedy scenes give Saraan odd, off-putting vibe.  (Not to mention the John Woo-esque finale in the final act.)  Like the Kick-Ass films, this quality makes Sara both simultaneously disturbing and alluring, which is quite a unique feat.Sara is well done in all technical aspects.[...]



Who Wants to Kill Sara? (Tutti gli uomini di Sara) (1992)

2016-02-02T07:00:03.605-06:00

I certainly do not, but Sara thinks somebody does.Nancy Brilli (Ruggero Deodato’s Body Count (1986) and Demons 2 (1986)) plays Sara Lancetti, a successful divorce attorney who is set to marry Max Altieri (Giulio Scarpati).  They forgo a long engagement and choose to marry fifteen days from Max’s proposal.  They’re happy.  One evening in their flat, a bouquet of flowers arrives with a mysterious message telling Sara not to marry.  Max believes they are the gift of an old bitter boyfriend, and Sara ignores them.  Sara receives a second bouquet and subsequently an obscene phone call that threatens her if she gets married.  Sara does not phone the police, believing her life may be in danger.  Rather, Sara decides to take a trip down memory lane and seek out her old lovers.Who Wants to Kill Sara? (Tutti gli uomini di Sara) (1992) wants to defy the expectations of the genre from it was so clearly born: the erotic thriller, brought to the A-List from the B-List by directors such as Adrian Lyne with 9 ½ Weeks (1986) and Fatal Attraction (1987) and Paul Verhoeven with Basic Instinct (1991).  In the end, Who Wants to Kill Sara? is a thriller; but its screenplay, by Silvia Napolitano, keeps it as loose as possible, only including the requisite scenes of the genre as they are demanded.Subsequent to her second bouquet and obscene phone call, Sara begins visiting old lovers.  The first she meets in a café and has a light conversation.  (Implicitly, Sara is able to remove suspects from her list by listening again to her lovers’ voices.)  While their conversation is light, the pair feels a chemistry and Sara and her old lover become flirty.  Despite the duo’s romantic feelings, their meeting ends uneventfully.  Sara then locates ex-lover, Daniele (Claudio Bigagli), who, upon seeing Sara, again, becomes overcome with emotion.  He’s sensitive, and after another uneventful meeting, where Sara eliminates him as a suspect, Daniele shows outside the courtroom to confront Sara the next day.  It was too much for him to see Sara, again, and he has to let her know this.  Sara meets another lover who’s hiding a secret, but in the end, this secret has nothing to do with Sara.There is an obvious warm nostalgia visiting and reminiscing with old lovers, simultaneously with a danger of reigniting the charged emotions that may have led to that relationship’s ending.  The pitfalls of such dangers are the driving force behind Who Wants to Kill Sara?  The opening scene of the film after Sara successfully defends her client in a courtroom, in the bathroom, Sara is pulled into an empty stall by an unknown man.  The two have a steamy standing love scene.  At the mid-point in the film, seemingly to remind its viewer that Sara is a thriller, Sara pops into a convenience store for some milk and receives a phone call while inside.  A stranger is calling from a phone booth, and Sara gives chase.  She cannot locate the man making the phone call, but soon after, she is attacked near her flat.  Sara escapes with little injury.  As the film builds towards its climax, Sara’s obsession to find the caller grows and causes havoc in her personal and professional life.  During the final meeting of Sara and one of her old lovers, it ends with Sara sharing his bed.  Peppered throughout the film are sexy shots of Brilli in her garter and hose or in her panties.  Erotic scenes? Check.  Thriller scenes? Check.  Erotic thriller?  Not quite.Who Wants to Kill Sara? suffers from an A-list production forgetting its true, b-movie roots.  The film is lit in a Lyne-ish manner with natural light filtering in through windows, giving its actors a smoky silhouette look at times.  The night scenes, especially the ones in Sara’s flat, are pedestrian.  When the killer is reve[...]



The House by the Edge of the Lake (Sensitività) (1979)

2016-01-31T07:00:17.731-06:00

Intuitively, one would think that The House by the Edge of theLake (Sensitività) (1979) was directed by Joe D’Amato: the similar compositions (by Alejandro Ulloa; although not quite as good as D’Amato’s); the antique almost colorless yet quite beautiful medieval village setting, as in Anthropophagus (1980); and finally, an emphasis on atmosphere and softcore sex.  However, no.  The House by the Edge of the Lake was helmed by Enzo G. Castellari, not known for his work in this genre, who responded to the question, “Are there any of your movies which you don’t like?”“Of course. For example SENSITIVIA (aka KYRA, LAST HOUSE NEAR THE LAKE, 1979). We made that one during my holidays in Spain, it was a completely Spanish production, involving some questionable money that had been left from some other, even more strange production. It was some sort of joke for me but then the producer came and said that there is no more money left to complete the film and that he needs my ‘name’ to raise more from other production companies. I was not very happy to see my name on that picture. However he failed to get more money, I returned to Rome and from what I’ve heard, the Spanish producer finished the picture by himself later on. I’ve never seen it but I’m sure it’s completely unwatchable. However, I had a great time with my friends at the Costa Brava (laughs).” (1)A notation follows this paragraph in the interview where the interviewers note that, “Castellari has since seen the finished film and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.” (2)Lilian (Leonora Fani) returns to her ancestral and familial home from Italy to do college research about the local superstitions.  Her house sits upon a lake that is avoided by the villagers as cursed.  In the opening scene of the film, a young mother is rowing upon it with her child daughter.  She lets her daughter go to shore, and while the young mother paddles to find a navigable path to the main shoreline, a woman’s hand comes from the lake and pulls the young woman from the boat.  En route to her home, Lilian encounters several bad omens:  she almost hits a blind young girl with her motorcycle; inside the home, she hallucinates a hooded figure who attempts to kill her with an axe; and finally, without Lilian’s notice, a young woman about her age spies on Lilian from a distance who seems none too happy that Lilian is home.  Lilian hooks up with the young people in the village, and later in the evening (after drinking), they decide to go to the cemetery.  Lilian notices a unique grave with a bust of a beautiful woman, sitting atop.  Her date for the evening identifies the plot as the resting place for Kyra, a woman suspected by the village as being a witch.  Her date, whose name is Julien (Alberto Squillante), says the woman was not a witch, because she was his ancestor.  Lilian becomes excited and the two start fucking.  The young woman who was spying on Lilian at her home, named Lilith (Patricia Adriani), is again watching Lilian.  Lilith has a vision of Kyra (Caternia Boratto), becomes aroused, and starts masturbating.  Lilian has an orgasm and faints.  Julien loses his shit and flees in his car.  He has an accident when his car goes over a cliff and he dies.The simultaneous arousal of Lilian and Lilith happens three more times; Lilith masturbates three more times; Lilian has sex three more times; and two of her partners subsequently kill himself after Lilian faints after orgasm in House.  The lone lover to survive is Lilian’s boyfriend, Edoardo (Wolfango Soldati), while the other lovers who meet suicidal ends (one of whom is Michele, played by Antonio Mayans aka Robert Foster) share a strong connection.  Castellari plays the police inspector who suspects that Lilian has something to do with the murders [...]



La stanza della fotografia (2000)

2016-01-29T07:00:18.550-06:00

La stanza della fotografia (2000) is an Italian made-for-tv film.  I wanted to see it, because it stars Cinzia Monreale.La stanza opens in Rome where an older man is driving to meet his lover.  He arrives at his lover’s flat and is immediately gunned down in a professional hit.  Cut to Tunisia and Silvia (Lea Karen Gramsdorff) and her husband, Marco (Roberto Farnesi).  A lawyer visits the couple and tells them that Silvia’s father has been murdered.  It appears that it was the work of the mafia, and he recommends Silvia to not return to Rome.  Silvia and Marco conduct tourist tours for a living and are in the middle of a very unhappy marriage—Marco is extremely abusive towards Silvia.  Cut to Denise (Monreale) whose husband attempts to rape her in the kitchen.  Denise kicks him in his groin and escapes.  Her husband calls some thugs to go and beat upon her.  Denise is confronted by three thugs and is about to get raped again when Silvia and Marco’s tour bus happens upon them.  Marco scares off the thugs, and Silvia offers solace to Denise.  The two women feel a strong bond and promise to see each other again.  One evening, Marco becomes angry and locks Silvia outside in a shed.  The following morning she flees to the home of Denise and her husband.  They tell her that she can stay.  When Silvia returns to her home to gather some things, Denise accompanies her.  When Marco becomes violent again, Denise shoots him.  She says it was an accident, as the two ladies dispose of his body…I have had a huge crush on Cinzia Monreale ever since I first saw her in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981).  I will see anything that in which she appears.  Despite the fact that her character really only begins her story arc about midway through La stanza, Monreale is the true attraction of the film.  Her opening scene is sleazy—not necessarily because it is depicting an attempted rape, but rather in how it depicts it:  it is shot in the same manner as a typical, consensual sex scene, despite it being a scene of violence.  It is also an opportunity for Monreale to provide nudity.  Tunisia appears to be a hot country, and this affords an opportunity for its leading ladies to don sundresses and short shorts.  Monreale is enchanting in a bikini.  I enjoyed all of this very much.  However, my attention span is painfully short, and these scenes soon became repetitive.  I was forced to confront the story of La stanza.While the Italian Wiki entry of La stanza credits Sergio Martino as the producer of the film, I recall seeing only his brother’s name, Luciano, in the credits as producer (he also is credited with the story.).  The director is Antonio Bonifacio.  The crew of La stanza want to fashion their production as a twist on Diabolique(Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955); and the story is constructed painfully transparent in its mystery.  Silvia begins to have visions of Marco, supposed to be dead, around the city.  She faints and passes out, and Silvia tells her only confidante, Denise, that she is seeing Marco.  Denise begins giving her pills to help her stress and allow her to rest.  The key scene, about midway through the film that undoes the mystery, is a ridiculously contrived one:  Denise tells Silvia that she has to go to the Italian consulate to renew her visa and will be gone most of the afternoon.  She goes.  The viewer is treated to a scene of Denise calling Silvia from the consulate.  Silvia is attacked by a man whom she believes is Marco and she ends up killing him.  It is not Marco but Denise’s husband.  Doesn’t that trip to the consulate seem a little too convenient?I possess an average intelligence; apply only rudimentary logic while wa[...]



Eyes Behind the Wall (L’occhio dietro la parete) (1977)

2016-01-27T07:00:18.409-06:00

Eyes Behind the Wall (L’occhio dietro la parete) (1977) is a weird Italian film. A giallo?  No.  However, the opening scene certainly suggests so.  A young man (John Phillip Law) shares a train car with an attractive young woman.  His eyes are drawn to her exposed legs, and he becomes aroused while watching her cross and uncross her legs.  His arousal prompts him to strangle the woman (and presumably, because it is not shown) and rape her.  Cut to attractive Olga (Olga Bisera) in a wealthy manor.  She joins Ivano (Fernando Rey) for dinner.  Discussion ensues about their new tenant, as they house a rental cottage on their property.  Ivano has been spying on his new tenant, named Arturo (Law), and is fascinated by his behavior.  Arturo spends all of his days alone listening to only classical and modern, progressive music.  He reads heady tomes, such as major philosophical and science works.  Ivano knows little about him after observation.  Where does he go when he leaves?  How does he produce income?  Olga sees Ivano’s spying as an intrusion upon someone’s private space but she is indulgent of his behavior:  Ivano is a writer, disabled and unable to walk.  He feels unable to move about in polite society to gather experiences to inform his writing.  So Ivano is reduced to spying.  Ivano is so into spying that he has installed a state-of-the-art monitoring device which allows him to view Arturo in his flat with complete discretion.  After dinner, Olga and Ivano go to spy upon Arturo in his apartment.  When Arturo sheds his clothes and engages in his exercises, Ivano prompts Olga to watch.  The old man strokes young Olga while she watches.  After their viewing session, Ivano suggests that Olga follow Arturo when he leaves at night and learn what he does.  Olga reluctantly agrees…Eyes strives to elevate itself beyond mere sensationalism and cast a drama within the milieu a generation questioning its sexual mores and taboos.  (Although, in the end, I think director and writer Giuliano Petrelli was struggling to balance the sensationalism and his ideals.)  Law’s character, Arturo, is presented as a curious but seriously confused individual (hence, the opening scene).  He seeks solace and knowledge in books, but when confronted with the real world and his emotions, he shuts down.  For example, on the trolley Arturo gets cruised by a dude who invites him to a nightclub for dancing.  Arturo doesn’t participate in the dancing—when an attractive young woman sheds her clothes on the dance floor, it is a little too much for him.  The guy invites himself to Arturo’s flat, and Arturo doesn’t understand his flirty behavior.  (I have to admit that I laughed quite a bit when Arturo was getting buggered and screaming bloody murder).  Eventually, Ivano prods Olga to arrange a meeting with Arturo and get to know him.  She brings Arturo the lease to sign and invites him out for the day.  Arturo is able talk politics and philosophy, but he is as socially-awkward as Travis Bickle when it comes to articulating his feelings.  Olga seduces him that evening in his flat (much to the chagrin of Ivano taking in all of the details via his spy-scope):  Arturo tries to initiate sex by anal penetration, but Olga, like a consoling mother, tells him no and takes over the reins in the lovemaking.  Olga and Arturo also have unique sexual identities vis-à-vis each other, and even their butler, Ottavio (José Quaglio) has his own secret sexual hang-ups and quirks which director Petrelli thinks is worth exploring with some sensitivity.The premise of Eyesis too incredulous to be taken seriously while simultaneously, the film is too realistic to be ar[...]



The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (La sanguisuga conduce la danza) (1975)

2016-01-20T07:00:12.627-06:00

In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ireland, Count Richard Marnack (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) visits the local theatre and invites its acting troupe to his island/castle home.  The Count is quite taken with ingénue, Evelyn (Patrizia de Rossi), who bears a striking resemblance to his wife, now missing some years.  The rest of the troupe, brazen Cora (Krista Nell), lovers Rosalind (Marzia Damon) and Penny (Lidia Olizzi), and diminutive stage hand, Samuel (Leo Valeriano) accompany the Count and Evelyn to the castle, as their theatre is closing.  Upon arrival at the castle, the group is greeted by stern and comely, Sybil (Femi Benussi), the housekeeper, the holier-than-thou butler, Jeffrey (Mario de Rosa), and lecherous groundskeeper Gregory (Luciano Pigozzi).  None of the latter three are particularly thrilled that the Count has brought guests.  A lavish dinner is prepared, and the Count tells a ghoulish ghost story:  both his grandfather and his father murdered each’s respective lover by beheading each with an ornate dagger, only to then after the act, jump from the top of the castle to his death in the sea.  The dagger is still in the house, and the Count wants to take Evelyn as his new wife.  Spooky.The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (La sanguisuga conduce la danza) (1975) feels like it was made by children who have discovered several unique facets of the human psyche and are eager to tell the world about them: 1) men are ineffectual and unnecessary; 2) women have sexual desires and desire to act upon them; and 3) lesbianism actually exists and is awesome.  If the ancient pharaohs made these findings and had inscribed them with detailed hieroglyphics, then maybe they would be provocative.  From the first act of Bloodsucker and from my synopsis above, one would intuitively think that the Count’s story and his bourgeoning relationship with Evelyn would be foreshadowing of the story to come.  Wrong.  Poor Samuel is the biggest pussy.  The first act devotes itself to a rather lengthy expositional sequence where Samuel visits each of the troupe’s actresses:  Cora asks Samuel to tie her corset, but he cannot do so, because he is distracted by her exposed breasts.  The lovers Rosalind and Penny want to be left alone for love-making but are disturbed by the ogling of Samuel.  Finally, Samuel does nothing but whine and bitch to Evelyn that they should not go to the castle, because he is afraid.  Samuel does little more than bitch and moan after arrival to the castle.  After their first breakfast, Cora is feeling particularly randy and wants a man.  She doesn’t even factor Samuel into her decision.  (The actor’s diminutive stature only magnifies his personality.)  Prior to the discovery of the first victim of Bloodsucker (it is a horror film, by the way), a precious scene plays:  Rosalind and Penny are fucking.  The cute young maid enters their bedroom with a pitcher of water.  She stares at the lovers for an inappropriate amount of time before clearing her throat and announcing she has brought their water.  Rosalind removes her lips from Penny’s nipple to tell the maid thank you and that she should leave.  Back in the maid’s chambers, where she shares a room with the other cute young maid, she stares at herself topless in the mirror.  The other maid asks what she is doing.  She says that she saw two of the lady guests making love in their bedroom.  “How is that?” The other asks.  “But they are two women.”  The maid confirms what she saw is true and asks her chamber mate if she thinks herbreasts are beautiful.  Yes, she replies.  Very beautiful.  Cora finds the most desirable man on the island, save the Count,[...]



The Hateful Eight (2015)

2016-01-17T19:00:25.194-06:00

I have never reviewed a Quentin Tarantino film on Quiet Cool, despite being a long-time fan of his work.  I saw Reservoir Dogs (1992) three times during its original theatrical run; Pulp Fiction (1994) five times; Jackie Brown(1997) three times; and Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004, respectively) once each.  I saw the QT-penned True Romance (1993) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) each three times, while seeing Natural Born Killers(1994), where QT receives only a story credit, three times also.  His subsequent three directorial efforts, Death Proof (2007), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and Django Unchained (2012), I saw each on home video for the first time.  While I have seen Death Proof many times, I have only seen Basterds and Django, once each.  It was obvious with QT’s first three films as a director, especially Pulp Fiction, that he was an important American filmmaker.  I even thought that (at least up until Death Proof) QT was the only American filmmaker whose work was innovative and progressive.  His only real contemporaries were working abroad—Lars Von Trier, Wong kar-wai, Kim ki-duk, Takashi Miike, Emir Kusturica, and Pedro Almodovar, for example.  With Death Proof, QT saw a critical and commercial failure, and it ended a period in his career.  (For what it is worth, I think Death Proof is amazing and is definitely the most “French” film that QT has directed.)  With Basterds and Django, QT appeared a more mature and more conservative filmmaker, one who has definitely lost his edge, however.  This is evident with the appearance of actor Christoph Waltz whose characterizations as Hans Landa and Dr. Schultz (in Basterds and Django, respectively) were mirror images of the other.  QT imbued both characters with a special foreknowledge of events in the story.  Landa knew most everything ahead of time in Basterds—in the opening scene, he knew the owner of the house was hiding Jews (and was taking pleasure watching the owner attempt to maintain his composure), and, also for example, he knew Brad Pitt’s character wasn’t Italian in the final act (and again, took pleasure in watching Pitt painfully annunciate his fake name.)  In Django, for example, Dr. Schultz shoots the sheriff and then makes his big reveal when he is confronted.  This foreknowledge that Waltz’s characters hold becomes so repetitious that it begins to feel like a gimmick.  (Waltz won two Academy Awards for these performances, so obviously the Academy thinks these characterizations and performances are special.  What do I know?)  Finally, Basterds was the first time in the history of viewing QT’s cinema that I actually successfully predicted what would happen twice; and Django had the most tired scene in all of QT’s filmography—an extended joke about why there is not enough sacks to make masks for a lynching.  In any case, I have authored this paragraph prior to seeing The Hateful Eight (2015), so here goes an open mind… Bounty Hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting his $10K bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) via horse-drawn carriage to Red Rock, Wyoming with an impending blizzard on the horizon.  En route, they meet a fellow bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), stranded on the road with three corpses in tow.  They agree, after some debate, to travel together to Red Rock.  They pick up one more lone soul on the road, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims that he is going to Red Rock to become its new sheriff.  With the blizzard quickly approaching, the group holes up at Minnie’s Haberdashery and encounter a Mexican named Bob (Demián Bichir) who is running the locale in the stead of Minnie, allegedly away[...]



The twelve days of Christmas (or at least the first seven) and On-Demand Viewing

2015-12-31T20:30:25.706-06:00

Christmas was pretty chill this year.  My two siblings spent Christmas with the family of each’s respective significant other which left me as the sole child at my parents’ house.  My Mom didn’t feel the compulsion to cook anything elaborate, and my father worked most mornings that week.  It was a relaxed affair for all involved and was one of the better Christmas’s in a very long time.  I spent my mornings as an early-riser and filled the a.m.’s with movies from various On-Demand services.  This post will serve as both a chronicle of those viewings and as a wrap-up for 2015 at QuietCool.  Judy (2014)I wasn’t the biggest fan of Emanuele De Santi’s Adam Chaplin(2011)—a superhero gore film that moved at a furious pace, well-suited alongside the Troma classics of the 80s.  His follow-up film, Judy, is a hundred-and-eighty degree turn.  A whacked-out group of street performers with a serious philosophy of brutality live on the periphery of the city.  A beautiful blonde woman loses her way in the city and stops her car in a secluded area to use her cell phone.  The matriarch of the whacked-out street performers approaches her car and begs for some money.  The beautiful blonde refuses to give her money and even goes so far to pull her pistol on the woman for her to leave her alone.  Back at her flat, the beautiful blonde woman attends to her dog, Judy, and the film, subsequently, never leaves this location.  The blonde soon loses track of Judy, and distraught, she goes looking.  As she explores her flat and the close proximity, the blonde slowly grows to realize that someone is fucking with her.  Judyis more of an interesting experiment than a fully satisfying film and well worth a viewing (as the initial one will hold most of its power). Applesauce (2015)I am a huge fan of Richard’sWedding (2012) and really enjoyed Summer of Blood (2014).  Director, writer, and actor, Onur Tukel is easily one of the most interesting currently working in American independent film.  Applesauce is his best film yet.  Tukel plays Ron who listens to shock jock, Stevie Bricks (Dylan Baker) on the radio.  Bricks has a call-in segment once a week where he asks his listeners to relate the worst things that they have ever done.  Ron can’t tell his story, because his wife, Nicki (Trieste Kelly Dunn) summons him away to a restaurant with friends, Les (Max Casella) and his wife, Kate (Jennifer Prediger).  Over dinner, Ron tells the story of the worst thing he’s ever done:  in college, he got into a fight at a frat party during which he slammed the door upon the fingers of his combatant, severing them completely.  Ron never knew what happened to the guy.  Ron begins to receive body parts in conspicuous locations throughout the film.  Les and Kate, motivated by Ron’s story, relate to each other each’s worst deed.  Les is crushed when he learns Kate’s story.  Each character’s revelations is the catalyst for each’s dramatic action, which all unfold in rather darkly humorous fashion.  A very witty and entertaining film.Christmas, Again (2014)Kentucker Audley plays Noel who comes from upstate New York once a year down to Brooklyn to plant his camper and sell Christmas trees and wreaths to the city folk.  He’s depressed this year, as it is apparent he is no longer with the woman he loves.  Late one evening, he sees a young woman passed out on a park bench.  He brings her into his camper away from the freezing cold.  She awakens the following morning and flees, embarrassed.  She later visits Noel with a kind gesture, and near the conclusion of Christmas, Again she spen[...]



Un silencio de tumba (1972)

2015-11-27T07:00:10.563-06:00

I probably like Un silencio de tumba more than I should.  I watch a lot (read a shitload) of low-budget movies but rarely as I am impressed with Jess Franco.  During my second viewing of Silencio, I had an epiphany, which should seem obvious after viewing a hundred plus Franco flicks, that the man had such a creative talent that Franco could take so little materially and make provocative and entertaining cinema.  Silencio is a murder mystery.On a remote island, a film crew takes a long weekend vacation.  Upon the island is a villa, owned by famous actress, Annette (Glenda Allen), and is occupied by her sister, Valerie (Montserrat Prous), her child, Christian, and few servants, among whom is Laura (Kali Hansa).  Annette and her guests, which include Juan (Alberto Dalbes), a detective and friend and Jerome (Luis Induni), her producer, among others, arrive via a chartered boat (the only way to reach the island).  Valerie stoically greets her guests, and they are not welcome:  Valerie harbors a deep resentment towards her sister and her lackadaisical attitude towards rearing her child.  Valerie believes that Annette lives a selfish life and will be damned if her sister takes her child away from Valerie.  During the first evening, after a revelry has ended, the child is kidnapped and a large ransom is demanded.  When the money is acquired and placed at the agreed-upon location, the child is still not returned.  Paranoia turns the guests against each other whom all begin to die in short order.Two performances stand out in Un silencio de tumba:  Montserrat Prous and Alberto Dalbes.  Even after seeing her in Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973) and Le journal intime d’une nymphomane (Sinner) (1973), I have failed to realize how truly beautiful and talented an actress Prous is.  There is an easy sexiness about her, as she is strumming a guitar upon the veranda (the music by Franco and Fernando García Morcillo is a favorite).  There is also a vulnerability to her character despite her hatred towards her sister and her guests and her obsession to keep the child at any cost.  This vulnerability engenders quite a bit of sympathy with her character.  Likewise, if Prous is the sail of Un silencio detumba, the Dalbes is the anchor.  A recognizable face from Spanish genre cinema, I often fail to recognize his talent, often because he is consistently so good that I have grown accustomed to him.  While the rest of the ensemble of Silencio is fueled by emotion, it is Dalbes’s Juan who keeps a level head and drives the story.  The story of Silencio is familiar and not of particular mention.  Franco, wisely, tells his story through Prous and Dalbes:  as Valerie loses her grip on reality because of her obsession, is Juan trying to keep her leveled or is he manipulating her, driving her further into paranoia for his own gain?  Never was I, even during repeated viewings of Silencio, looking for clues in the story or trying to determine who was a suspect. Rather I was fixated upon Prous and Dalbes and more interested in how their characters were evolving.  Perhaps the irony of Un silencio de tumba and why it occupies a second-tier among Franco fans is that while he should have been crafting a murder mystery, Franco, either intentionally or negligently, crafted a fine dual-character study.As Franco tells Un silencio de tumba through the eyes of Prous and Dalbes, his visual style focuses upon close-ups of his actors.  Prous’s Valerie is the lone character to be afforded monologues, and despite their antiquated feel, they work towards heightening her obsession.  Silencio is not a poor [...]



The Hugo Stiglitz Chronicles, Volume Three

2015-11-25T07:00:09.306-06:00

“Who’s in the house? Stiglitz’s in the house.”Repeat four times.This is a song that I wrote.  Enjoy.El vibora (2002)In El vibora(2002) (the IMdB lists the film possibly as Matar para vivir (2002)), Stiglitz gets second billing with his named spelled correctly in the credits with “Stieglitz” on the DVD cover.  It has been well over a week since I have seen the film, but I remember the simple plot as such:  in Mexico, an anti-terrorist police force nabs a terrorist who runs the nerve center of the terrorist cell.  They hold him indefinitely and use various methods to extract information from him with little gain.  Stiglitz is the head of the terrorist cell and lives in Houston, Texas.  When he learns that his compadre has been captured, he arrives in Mexico to either free him or kill him.  Both sides attempt to gain information about the other with little success.  Stiglitz has a meeting with one of his partners at a bar, and the two have a conversation, relating important information, in front of a shoeshine boy.  This boy has a fortuitous run-in with the lead officer of the anti-terrorist squad which leads to a fateful confrontation with Stiglitz.  Three scenes stand out:1.       Upon arrival in Mexico, Stiglitz meets his compatriots at a bar, and they discuss their plan.  Each is served a cold bottle of Corona beer.  The meeting is short, so when it concludes, each leaves a bottle of beer in front of him, half- to three-quarters full.  Stiglitz takes his beer with him.2.       Two police officers raid a karate dojo and nab a potential suspect.  After some questioning, the police realize that he is not a suspect and attempt to apologize and leave.  The sensei of the dojo challenges the two officers with his best two students.  One of the police officers wins his competition with martial arts.  The other ends his sparring match by pulling his gun.  Definitely not “the way of the empty fist.”3.       Before the fateful confrontation with the anti-terrorist squad, one of Stiglitz’s henchmen gets cold feet and attempts to flee.  Stiglitz guns him down.  About to put a gun down the front of his pants with a hot barrel, Stiglitz opts not to.  Instead he smells the barrel and shows no emotion.El vibora is average.  I have never been too fond of political thrillers, so I am really not this film’s proper audience.  The film is a game of one-upsmanship with a lot of talky bits.  Its Stiglitz-tude is lacking.Un hombre salvaje(1993)In Un hombre salvaje(1993), a large, good-looking man is engaged in martial arts sparring at a local gym.  He goes too far and attacks his opponent violently.  His good-looking girlfriend appears at the gym (she is a dancer) and chides him for his violent behavior.  Back at their apartment, their rent-to-own furniture is about to be seized.  The large, good-looking man, who is later revealed to be a cop, borrows some money from his homey who runs an appliance repair shop.  When negotiations fail with the repo men outside of his apartment, the cop takes to violent action and starts beating the men.  His girlfriend steps in and stops them.  They take away their color television.  The cop returns to his homey to give him the money that he borrowed, but Stiglitz shows up as a crime boss.  (He is dressed with an overcoat around his shoulders with a cigar in his mouth.  This is the attire of a crime boss.)  One of Stiglitz’s cronies subdues the cop, and Stiglitz ices the appliance[...]



El asesino está entre los trece (The Killer is Among the Thirteen) (1973)

2015-10-06T07:00:16.257-05:00

El asesino está entre los trece (The Killer is Among the Thirteen) (1973) plays like a Who’s Who of Spanish 70s genrecinema:  Patty Shepard, Jack Taylor, Dyanik Zurakowska, Eusebio Poncela, and Simón Andreu, for example, head the cast; while Paul Naschy delivers an extended cameo with future superstar Carmen Maura featured in an early role.  This cast plays a group of leisure, invited for a weekend sojourn by Shepard, with highballs, inane conversation, extravagant dinners, and possible evening bed-hopping on the agenda.  As the title would indicate, this representative class of the boo-gee has a sinister character amongst their number who plans on reducing it before the weekend is out.While it is not anemic, the first murder of El asesino está entre los trece does not occur until the end of the second act.  Several signature features of the giallo are present:  black gloves, razor blades, and the first-person point-of-view of the killer.  The murders are not graphic, and the love scenes are tame.  The camera cuts away when a bra is unstrapped or when a blade enters into someone’s flesh, usually.  With the sensational elements considerably toned down, El asesino está entre los trece feels like Renoir-lite:  the values of the middle class are exposed, and because of their values, the middle class do themselves in, rather than the maniacal killer the title suggests.Shepard plays Lisa Mandel, a recently-widowed wealthy woman who invites the group to her secluded home in the countryside.  Her husband died a couple of years ago in a plane crash, its jet he was piloting.  Barbiturates were found in his system with a non-lethal dose enough to make him fall asleep.  Lisa believes the killer visited him slightly before he took off and drugged him.  That person is among her group of invitees, and she reveals this information to them during the first evening’s formal dinner.  Every single one of them had an opportunity to kill her husband.  Lisa has invited the group to discover each’s motive and reveal the killer during their stay.  Even Lisa’s cousin, Francis (Poncela), and her aunt with whom she lives cannot be ruled out as suspects.  A mild case of paranoia sets in among the guests and slightly hampers their fun.Tension and dread is sorely lacking in El asesino está entre los trece and this is its chief flaw.  A murder mystery, intuitively, should focus on murder or mystery, but they are almost wholly absent from the first two acts of the film.  Andreu plays Harry Stephen, a very flirtatious playboy.  His aim, apparently, is to seduce every single woman that the film presents.  The lovely, little maid, Elena (Rosa de Alba) is his only successful seduction.  First, he encounters her in his room and showers her with flatteries.  During their second meeting, he dares a kiss.  Finally, he attempts to fuck her in his bedroom, but Elena, by this time totally infatuated with him, suggests a clandestine rendezvous in the pool house.  They meet at the midnight hour and fuck in the pool house.  At the conclusion, Elena asks, “Will you take me with you when you leave?”  Andreu, as Harry Stephen, suggests that they slow down.  Naschy, incidentally, plays the jealous handyman who is having a relationship with Elena.  (He has a love scene with Rosa de Alba, and I am sure he thanked his director, Javier Aguirre.)  Not only do these scenes feel as if they are out of The Rules of the Game (1939), but they occupy a substantial portion of the film’s ninety-minute runtime.  Also, no one’s persona[...]



The Hugo Stiglitz Chronicles, Volume Two

2015-10-04T07:00:06.945-05:00

More Stiglitz. La mara salvatrucha(2002) (??)La mara salvatrucha(2002) is listed on the IMDb as Veteranos de la M-18 (2007), although my DVD shows the former as the title with its year listed in the end credits.  The film is about a street gang.  They don’t work; drink and smoke weed; and commit acts of heinous violence.  The leader of the gang is tight with his sister; and one day, as he is gunning down a fleeing foe, his sister rounds the corner and is gunned down, too.  The leader is devastated and as La maraunfolds, he begins to lose his shit.  In an exemplary scene, the gang attempts to rob a warehouse full of goods which is guarded by armed men.  Now constantly inebriated, the leader stands vacant and still as bullets fly around him.  He gives a slurred speech and pumps some bullets into the warehouse’s boss.  It is unclear whether the gang claims any booty from this robbery.  He and his gang go to a cemetery where they encounter the parents of one of their victims.  The gang guns them down.  He rapes a young woman who, devastated by her trauma, turns to heroin.  The leader begins shooting up with her, too.  It is clear the path that this young man has chosen will lead him to certain death.  By the end of ninety minutes, at least.  Stiglitz plays “El jefe,” and he sees his soldier on the street, the leader of the street gang, causing nothing but trouble for the entire syndicate.  A showdown is inevitable.La mara is a low-budget exploitation film, where I found myself fascinated as to what kind of shit was going to happen next.  There is an aimlessness to the action which, in a creative touch, mimics the lifestyle of the street gang.  There is something undefinable about watching the tragedy of someone self-destruct juxtaposed with the same person committing ruthless acts of violence (like brutally torturing a foe, only to, with venomous passion, force one of his comrades to murder the man).  La mara is oldschool exploitation.  I couldn’t really tell what was up with Stiglitz:  he’s so cold and icy that it is hard to read his emotions.  He dies really good in this one.  He is also billed as “Stiglis.”Pistoleros del traficante(1999)Not only is Stiglitz top-billed in Pistoleros del traficante (1999), he appears as the protagonist, as opposed to the supporting role I find myself familiar with.  He is an officer on the front lines of the drug trade and is actively attempting to stop drug trafficking…with little success.  During a dangerous raid, Stiglitz and company manage to interrupt a drug trade and nab one of the dealers.  A fellow officer shoots the suspect before he can talk, and Stiglitz has to shoot him down.  This scene is representative of Stiglitz’s dilemma:  everyone around him, including his so-called compatriots on the force, are on the wrong side of the law.  Stiglitz meets one of his homies at a bar, and the fellow seems an affable chap.  (Although in the first scene of Pistoleros, after a concert scene, this same fellow is seen gunning down two dudes in cold blood.)  Stiglitz’s homey is one of the key, upper-echelon figures in the drug trade and he has turned his sights towards turning Stiglitz to the dark side.  He commands his voluptuous lady to seduce Stiglitz at every opportunity she can get.  Stiglitz is actually cool with that, despite having a gorgeous and loving wife.  Eventually, one of Stiglitz’s crooked colleagues on the force makes a fatal mistake that identifies him as a bad guy.  Stiglitz, [...]



The Hugo Stiglitz Chronicles, Volume One

2015-10-01T07:00:16.273-05:00

For the fan of offbeat film, one of the perks of living in a culturally diverse city is the accessibility to weird movies from other countries and in other languages.  Whilst shopping at my local mega-mart, I noticed a large bin, about the size of a child’s swimming pool, filled to the brim with DVDs of Mexican films, most of which were less than the price of a pack of cigarettes.  Atop of the heap were several films featuring actor Hugo Stiglitz, the star of one of my favorite European horror films, Nightmare City, and whose name was immortalized by Quentin Tarantino when he cast Til Schweiger as Sargent Hugo Stiglitz in his 2009 film, Inglourious Basterds.  Most of the DVDs that I saw available had Stiglitz’s picture on its cover, often he was brandishing a firearm and held a cold, icy stare for any prospective viewers of his cinema.  I thought that these were badass, so I bought a shitload of them.  I feel compelled, now, to chronicle my journey through these films.  I see no end in sight.2 monjitas en peligro(1998)The image of two attractive nuns brandishing assault rifles on the cover of this DVD was enough for me to merit purchasing it.  The presence of Stiglitz, who receives top billing, was gravy.  2 monjitas en peligro deals with two (biological) sisters.  As children, they were cared for by the Mother Superior (Ana Luisa Peluffo) as their loving father was often occupied with business.  His business was drug trafficking, and he gets gunned down by the police who interrupt an exchange.  The young girls’ grandfather takes it upon himself to rear his granddaughters, especially by teaching them how to expertly use firearms.  The sisters grow into women (portrayed by Edna Bolkan and Maribel Palmer) and are engaged in helping the Mother Superior run her orphanage.  One day, two armed thugs, with a copious amount of cocaine in tow, take refuge in the orphanage from the police and hold all inside, including the children, hostage.  The two sisters cut a deal with their captors:  they agree to tape the cocaine to their persons; disguise themselves as nuns; and deliver the goods to the local crime boss in exchange for their surrendering and letting everyone go.  The police will not search two nuns, and absent any heavy evidence, the captors will face seriously reduced charges.  The deal is made, and the two sisters deliver the goods.  The local crime boss is most impressed.  He attempts to pay the two sisters to perform their ruse, again, and they are close to accepting as the orphanage is constantly behind in payments.  They refuse, as everyone knows, drug trafficking cannot justify even helping poor, unfortunate orphans.  The local crime boss then kidnaps the Mother Superior and forces the two sisters to drive a station wagon full of cocaine into the city, past police checkpoints.  If they do not, then the Mother Superior will be killed.  The sisters learn, en route to their destination, that Stiglitz, who works as a henchman for the local crime boss, was involved in the murder of their father.  They decide to get revenge upon the syndicate.  The plot of 2 monjitas en peligro sounds really cool, but the execution is extremely mechanical, most of it delivered in dialogue.  The film generates no real energy.  Stiglitz mostly chews the scenery:  he just stares at people and looks badass; or he has a drink and a smoke while delivering dialogue.  The director, Jesús Fragoso Montoya, makes no interesting compositions and never steps beyond a conser[...]



Digging for Fire (2015)

2015-08-31T07:00:06.390-05:00

Joe Swanberg is one of the more interesting writer/directors working today, ever since his debut film, Kissing on the Mouth (2005).  He shows a willingness to experiment with scenarios involving intimacy (both physical and emotional) and Swanberg takes some serious artistic risks in exacting his cinema.  His latest film, Digging for Fire (2015), has premiered recently theatrically; and despite the fact that I live in a major city in the United States, the film was unavailable to see on the big screen.  The film did, however, appear on demand, and via iTunes, I was able to see it recently.  Let’s see what’s shaking. Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Tim (Jake Johnson, who also co-scripted) are a young couple with a child about to enter preschool.  Lee teaches yoga; Tim is a high-school gym teacher; and their family are house-sitting in an upscale home for an actress out of the country filming.  Lee is stressing about their child’s education: she wants their son to go to a good school and is worried how they are going to pay for it.  Tim’s view is more lax:  he teaches in public school and feels it would be hypocritical for their son to not attend there.  Tim is also reticent to prepare and file their tax return.   To top it off, Tim has found on the property a rusty revolver and an old bone.  He wants to dig further and see what else he can uncover.  Understandably, Lee wants Tim to abandon that idea but she knows that he will not.  Instead, Lee decides to visit her parents (Judith Light and Sam Elliott) with her son for the weekend: this visit will afford her the opportunity to leave her son in good hands and have a relaxing evening out with friends.  Tim, unsurprisingly, becomes obsessed with the idea of finding more treasures on the property.  He continues to dig and has friends over for the weekend.  Lee and Tim, at this point, will remain separated for the duration of Digging for Fire, and each will take her/his spiritual journey during this last vestige of youth.When Digging for Fireconcluded and the credits began rolling, my sister, who was also in attendance at this viewing, said, “Nothing happened.”  She’s right:  Digging for Fire is a drama and it follows the traditional, three-act structure of drama; but nothing “dramatic” happens.  The only time that a character raises his voice, Ray (Sam Rockwell), it does not end with a violent confrontation or a yelling match.  Hurt and embarrassed, Ray leaves after his outburst, since he had been chastised by Tim for interrupting his evening with Max (Brie Larson).  The only time that a fight occurs in Digging for Fire is off screen:  a chivalrous Ben (Orlando Bloom) politely escorts a drunk out of a bar who was hitting on a clearly perturbed Lee.  For his chivalrous act, Ben receives a cut above his eye but he doesn’t throw a punch in return.  In fact, he asks the hostess at the bar to call the drunk a cab.  Finally, for example, both Tim and Lee have an opportunity to cheat on each other that evening:  Ben cooks Lee a meal for helping him tend to his wound, and the two take a moonlit stroll on the beach.  Ben kisses Lee, and despite the fact that she is attracted to him, she leaves him at the shoreline.  Tim and Max have a day of digging and bonding and dinner.  She comes over to the house the morning after the party at Tim’s house to retrieve her purse.  Max stays, and they get to know each other, creating a close connection.  Tim is too sca[...]



La Casa de las Mujeres Perdidas (1982)

2015-08-26T07:00:15.110-05:00

La Casa de las Mujeres Perdidas (1982) is a weird Jess Franco film.  In a good way.  It is also undeniably dirty.Antonio Mayans plays Mendoza, the patriarch of his small family and an Argentinean actor living in exile on a remote island off of the coast of Spain.  The Mendoza family are the sole occupants of said isle whose other members are Desdemona (Lina Romay in her Candy Coster guise), Mendoza’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Dulcinea (Carmen Carrión), Mendoza’s lover, and Poulova (Susana Kerr), the youngest daughter, who is also simple-minded.  Their family dynamic has reached critical mass:  Mendoza has become disassociated—he is desperately trying to remember his past and revel in his former glory; but his past is a distant memory:  for all he knows, Mendoza is creating memories rather than re-living them.  Desdemona really, really wants to fuck.  In an early scene of La Casa, scantily-clad Desdemona lays upon her bed in full view of her father, attempting sensual poses every time that he looks up from his magazine.  Dulcinea has become bored with this isolated and repetitious lifestyle, especially since Mendoza refuses or physically cannot make love to her anymore.  Poor Poulova is nothing more than a small child in a grown woman’s body.  As she requires the same care as a newborn infant, the remaining family members bicker over who is to care for her, as none seem particular eager to do so.  One day a handsome young hunter (Tony Skios) arrives on the island for a little poaching and becomes the catalyst causing the Mendoza family to implode.The sole criticism of La Casa de las Mujeres Perdidas in the essential Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco is a quote from Franco:“La Casa de las Mujeres Perdidas is not a horror film, but it’s a very bizarre film, a story of manners—bad manners!  It looks like Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, yet it’s totally different.  It mostly concerns la petite bourgeoisie” (J. Franco, Madrid, 1986).  (*)Buñuel, Pasolini, and Jean Renoir, for example, all had fun at the expense of the boo-gee—exposing their values and then creating the characters’ downfall, because of them.  There is no reason that Jess Franco is not entitled to their same artistic license.  La Casa de las Mujeres Perdidasis really essential Franco:  it is poetic, sensuous, and provocative while also being playful, progressive, and above all, very dirty.  It is a film made in post-Franco Spain, where Lina Romay spends almost the entire time butt-naked, seemingly because she can.  In a representative sequence, Desdemona sits in a rocking chair and eats an orange.  She is also watching what I assume to be an episode of Dallas (as the dialogue reveals characters such as J.R. and Sue Ellen).  Franco’s camera never leaves a tight composition upon Romay.  She begins enjoying her orange, letting the juice drip upon her body, eventually playing with a slice of orange in a very discreet area of her body.  (She enjoys the same playfulness with a cigarette in an earlier scene.)  I cannot help but to find this scene funny:  the privilege of masturbating to an episode of Dallasis now available; or one can now masturbate while watching Romay masturbate to an episode of Dallas. I think that I have exceeded my quota with the word masturbate for now.  Time to move on.Franco exposes the characters’ self-centeredness and self-importance in La Casa.  Dulcinea is the recipient [...]



The Death Avenger of Soho (Der Todesrächer von Soho) (1971)

2015-08-19T07:00:15.909-05:00

I was in the mood to watch a krimi and a Jess Franco film and, subsequently, found a flick that fit both bills:  The Death Avenger of Soho (Der Todesrächer von Soho) (1971).  An anxious man in a London hotel asks the manager for his bags to be packed and to have a cab waiting for him at the curb.  He returns to his room to find his luggage already packed and waiting for him which, for whatever reason, greatly perturbs him.  He pays his bill, and while attempting to enter the cab, he is killed with a precision knife throw from an unknown assailant.  Handsome Inspector Robert Redford (Fred Williams) arrives to investigate, and the crime scene yields little evidence.  Redford hooks up with his friends, crime novelist Charles Barton (Horst Tappert) and photo-journalist Andy Pickwick (Luis Morris) for help.  The sole lead in his case is a doctor, Dr. Blackmead (Siegfried Schüremberg)—who happened to be in the vicinity of the film’s first kill.  At the doctor’s office, Redford meets Dr. Blackmead’s assistant, Helen (Elisa Montés), and is instantly smitten.  Another murder occurs with the same modus operandi, yet there is no discernable link between the victims.  Redford’s leads run cold.  A mysterious man (Dan Van Hussen) breaks into the home of Charles Barton, and is caught stealing red-handed by Barton.  The would-be thief says he knows Charles Barton, personally, and the man occupying this home and using his name is not the same.  Meanwhile, a distraught Helen meets Redford at a bar and reveals to him that she found a dangerous opiate among the doctor’s pharmacy.  She believes that the good doctor has too large a quantity of illegal narcotics to ignore.  Redford agrees and has a break in the case.  He promises to protect Helen, who reveals that she has a mysterious past, as well…Franco crafts a fine krimifilm with The Death Avenger of Soho.  The film is based on a novel by Bryan Edgar Wallace [which had been previously filmed as Das Geheimnis der Schwarzen Koffer in 1963] and its screenplay is by Franco and Artur Brauner, whose production company CCC was looking to cash in on the popular Wallace krimicraze. (1)  Death Avenger was made towards the end of the krimi cycle. (2)  There is a moodiness to Death Avenger quite like Sie Tӧtete in Ekstase (She Killed in Ecstasy) (1970) where there is an overwhelming sense of uncomfortableness accompanying the dramatic action.  As there is little information made available as to what is motivating the killings, the resultant vibe is uneasiness and dread.  Franco’s photography (by Manuel Merino) has some exceptional set pieces.  The opening alleyway, where the first murder occurs, has a haunting quality, as a blind organ grinder listlessly chimes away accompanies perfectly the composition:  a tight alley where a clearly audible gust of wind seemingly does not affect a small bank of fog.  Franco also makes good use of the wide-angled lens, as he did subsequently in La Maldición de Frankenstein (1972).  There is a particularly, nasty giallo-esque murder near the end of the film.  Despite the seriousness of the dramatic action, Franco does allow The Death Avenger to be a sexy, flirty film.  For example, when Redford meets Helen for the first time, she opens the door and asks what he wants.  Redford coyly replies with a marriage proposal which the young lady politely declines.  It is easy to tell that these two charact[...]



Musarañas (2014)

2015-08-14T07:00:09.988-05:00

I was looking forward to Musarañas(2014).  It is co-executive produced by Álex de la Iglesia and Carolina Bang (who also plays a small part), reuniting them from Las brujas de Zugarramurdi(Witching and Bitching) (2013) with actress Macarena Gómez and actor Hugo Silva.  Musarañas is co-directed by Juanfer Andrés (he also contributed to the screenplay) and Esteban Roel. Musarañas is a confused film, a little too familiar in its plot and a little too convenient when it needs to be. In 1950s Spain, Montse (Macarena Gómez) cares for her younger sister, played by Nadia de Santiago.  Montse works from her home as a dressmaker and is an agoraphobic, wholly dependent upon her younger sister for assistance.  At the opening of Musarañas, her younger sister has just turned eighteen and is showing strong signs of independence:  she works outside the home; and Montse has noticed, from her window, her younger sister conversing with a young man in the street.  The sisters’ mother died during the birth of the youngest and the two were raised by their strict, religious father.  He has since disappeared, leaving the rearing of Montse’s younger sister upon herself.  Her father’s religious conviction is strong within Montse, and when her younger sister arrives late one evening, Montse takes to corporal punishment upon her.  In the morning, Montse begs for her sister’s forgiveness, but it seems their tenure together is destined to end.  The handsome upstairs neighbor, Carlos (Hugo Silva), injures himself falling down the stairs and he knocks at Montse’s door seeking help.  She puts Carlos in the spare room, and tends weakly to his wounds.  She promises his recovery, yet Montse begins drugging him.  Her younger sister wants to escape and is determined to help Carlos leave, as well.Musarañas is Montse’s film.  She is the protagonist and the antagonist of the film.  Almost the entire film takes place in Montse’s flat and when the film ventures outside, it is only into the landing outside or Carlos’s flat upstairs.  Andrés and Roel expend quite a bit of time fleshing out her character and making her sympathetic to the audience.  It is revealed that her father was extremely abusive towards her and she had to endure this for quite some time.  Understandably, she is agoraphobic and fearful as her father kept a tight grip upon her.  When Carlos comes into her home, one can see why she is keeping him close.  In a romantic sense, this is really only Montse’s opportunity to fall in love.  Of course, Montse is also completely unhinged; so when Musarañas needs her to become a monster, she becomes one.  In a move, like a schism, all of the sudden Nadia de Santiago’s character (whose name is never uttered by the way) will become the protagonist:  she attempts to protect Carlos from Montse, and it is the younger sister with whom Carlos falls in love.  When Carlos’s disappearance attracts the police and his fiancé, Elisa (Bang), Montse begins a murder spree.  With each subsequent corpse that she has to hide in her flat, Montse becomes desperate and ruthless.  In the gory final act, Montse does not appear as a person at all.  Conveniently, Musarañas attempts a reconciliation between the sisters in the final minutes, and a revelation occurs between them that was painfully obvious to the viewer from the opening minutes.Macarena Gómez, as Montse, gives a ste[...]



Maya (1989)

2015-08-11T07:00:06.474-05:00

Maya (1989) is an Italian horror film by producer Maurizio Tedesco and director Marcello Avallone, the duo who brought the similarly-themed film of a previous year, Specters (1987). Maya is a film definitely of its era: not so much as an Italian horror obscurity but rather as a direct-to-video horror, common throughout American video stores: there is a bit of violent gore peppered throughout, along with some eye-catching softcore sex and nudity, and finally, quite a bit of bullshit mixes with the plot and the characters.Maya begins strong.  Professor Slivak (William Berger) lives in the shadow of a Mayan pyramid and is being plagued with nightmares about sacrifices once given atop the pyramid millennia ago.  He awakens one morning, and convinced he must confront the ancient evil, Slivak begins his journey by car.  En route he spies a striking-looking child who steps in front of his vehicle.  Slivak exits the car to tend to the injured child, but the child is not injured or dead: the child frightens Slivak with a flash of its eyes.  The child is an omen of the evil to come.  At the base of the pyramid, Slivak slowly ascends its stairs.  At the top near the sacrificial altar, he is slain.  His chest is cut open and his heart removed.Enter Peter (Peter Phelps).  Peter is a good-looking layabout who is fucking gorgeous local Jahaira (Mariangélica Ayala).  He likes to smoke weed, drink booze, and take long walks in the rain.  He also has a gambling problem which has put him in debt, much to the chagrin of the local expatriate community, including local cantina owner, Sid (Antonello Fassari) and his bar maid, Laura (Mirella D’Angelo).  The announcement of Slivak’s murder looms over the village, who are coincidentally preparing a commemorative event at the Mayan pyramid.  Slivak’s daughter, Lisa (Mariella Valentini) arrives to identify her father’s corpse and she remains in the village to find his murderer.  Lisa enlists the help of Peter but is hindered throughout her investigation.  Everyone is reticent to talk to her, despite the fact that more people are murdered up until the commencement of the village ceremony.The aim of Maya is definitely the American market: it clearly wants to plant itself in a video box to snuggle up on the shelves of its American counterparts.  I remember reading (or watching) an interview with Umberto Lenzi who described his later, late-eighties films in the “American-style.”  The Italians knew the foreign market was much stronger than the domestic one.  Mayahas a Utilitarian, focused visual style: the compositions are never showy or distracting.  Tension and foreboding are created through tighter compositions and marked pacing.  Even the wonderful opening of the film has a cool synth track to accompany its visuals.  The problems of Maya come with the plot and the characterization.  Avallone attempts to give his characters some depth by providing each a back story:  Sid has a broken heart; Laura has a secret boyfriend; and Jahaira suffers from unrequited love.  Enriching a character’s background intuitively should create sympathy in the viewer; however, along the way, nay from the beginning, Avallone forgot he was making a murder mystery (maybe even a supernatural one?).  While one character may have a broken heart, none have a motive.  The characters just float along with seemingly no real tie[...]



It Follows (2014)

2015-08-06T07:00:04.611-05:00

I was certain hype was going to kill this one for me.  After seeing the theatrical trailer (yet missing the theatrical release), it was littered with so many quotes from various horror-film review sites that ItFollows (2014) was destined to fall short of its praise.  I am now a little shocked, after viewing the film On Demand via Amazon, that hype was not its killer.  It Follows is actually quite creative, compelling, and engaging during its entire runtime.Jay Height (Maika Monroe) lives a quiet life in the Detroit suburbs with her mother and younger sister, Kelly (Lili Sepe).  Jay has recently begun to date handsome young man, Hugh (Jake Weary), and the two attend a movie theatre one evening.  They engage in light conversation, and Hugh points out to Jay a young woman in a yellow dress entering the theatre.  Jay says that she cannot see the person, and Hugh asks her again if she is certain.  Jay says that she is, and Hugh becomes fearful and hurriedly asks Jay to leave.  Despite his weird behavior, Jay has a second date with Hugh, a romantic lakeside rendezvous.  They eventually fuck in Hugh’s car, and while Jay is enjoying her post-loving elation, she is subdued by Hugh who drugs her and knocks her out.  Jay awakens to find herself tied to a wheelchair and the sounds of Hugh apologizing:  Hugh is being chased by a dauntless pursuer who is only hindered by the fact that he or she is walking (not running).  The pursuer, according to Hugh, can change form into anyone; and the only way to steer the pursuer is to sleep with someone, who then becomes the object of the pursuer.  If the pursuer catches his/her object, then it is certain death.  It is a shitty thing to do someone, and Hugh drops her at her home, telling her to just sleep with someone quickly and get the beast off of her back.  At her home, Jay finds Kelly and her two friends, Paul (Keir Gilchrist) and Yara (Olivia Luccardi).  These three have a little trouble believing the curse story but they deeply care about Jay and are willing to help her in her dilemma.The most striking and obvious aspect about It Follows is how detached it feels:  while the photography is quite nice (by Mike Gioulakis) and the compositions interesting, they never feel intimate.  The use of music is judicious (by Disasterpeace) and is used in a mostly non-traditional manner for a horror film.  There is little substantive dialogue (screenplay is by director, David Robert Mitchell): while most of the dialogue is in service of the story, e.g. “Where to do want to go?” or “Do you need me to help you?”, a good portion of the dialogue is romantic:  Paul and Jay discuss each giving his/her first kiss to each other when they were children; Jay waxes poetic in her post-loving elation about what she thought dating would be like as a little girl; and finally, for example, Yara is reading The Idiot throughout It Follows and quotes several poetic passages to an often captive group of characters.  Initially, I thought It Follows was going to be River’s Edge Redux, detailing in fashion the sexual mores of suburban teenagers.  Not quite.  It is a little off-putting to watch, however, Jay have a second confrontation with Hugh and not display any anger towards him.  The only real emotions that these characters show is fear.  I think that director Mitchell was going for something a li[...]



House of Blood (Chain Reaction) (2006)

2015-08-04T07:00:08.613-05:00

House of Blood (Chain Reaction) (2006) is an English-language horror film made by Germans, filmed in Germany and Austria as a setting for the Pacific Northwest in the United States.  House of Blood was directed by the notable (or notorious) Olaf Ittenbach, written by Ittenbach and Thomas Reitmar, and the special effects were created by Ittenbach.Dr. Douglas Madsen (veteran American character actor, Christopher Kriesa who appeared previously in Ittenbach’s Legion of the Dead (2001)) awakens the morning of the anniversary of his parents’ tragic death.  Along his route to work, his vehicle collides with a prisoner transport bus.  This collision causes an accident which allows the prisoners to free themselves.  The four convicts have a shootout with the guards and are victorious.  They assume the garb of the guards but during the battle, one of the prisoners, Spence (Luca Maric), gets a bullet wound to his arm.  The convicts drag Madsen out of his vehicle, and the de facto leader of the group, Arthur (Simon Newby), forces Madsen to tend to the wounds of Spence (who is Arthur’s younger brother).  Madsen argues that he needs better facilities to help the man, and the group suggest hiking north towards Canada (away from their prison in Seattle).  They move through a dense forest and encounter a thick fog bank.  They enter and exiting the fog, the group encounters an antique cottage (seemingly older than the American Colonial period).  A beautiful young woman (named Alice, portrayed by Martina Ittenbach) is letting blood from a sheep outside.  The convicts decide to siege upon the cottage’s inhabitants (of whom there are quite a few) and allow Madsen to attend to Spence.  The inhabitants of the cottage insist that the convicts leave, but the convicts persist in staying.  The group appears extraordinarily religious (Christian) and passive, initially, until they transform into vampire-like demons and whip some serious convict ass.  Madsen is the only survivor and escapes into the arms of a patrolling SWAT team…The screenplay for House of Blood is interesting conceptually.  Ittenbach and Reitmar introduce the governing theme as reincarnation and structure the narrative in an elliptical fashion.  However, its execution is woefully done.  Ittenbach does not use his exposition in the first act effectively.  Most of the characters’ dialogue and action are devoted to bickering and repeating the same things.  How many times can the group of convicts decide to go north? A lot.  How many times can Arthur bitch at Madsen to heal his brother?  Too many.  The most detracting flaw is the dialogue of the cottage inhabitants-cum-demons:  they all suffer from Yoda-its, where they all begin their sentences with verbs with the additional annoyance of adding –eth to the end of them.  For example, “Knoweth, I do.  Leaveth, you now.”  This shit gets on your nerves pretty quickly.  Finally, the dialogue pads the length of the narrative which in turn kills the pacing of the film.  Kriesa and Martina Ittenbach give competent performances.  Wonderful actor, Jürgen Prochnow, is sorely underused as a police inspector who appears in few scenes in the same setting (an interrogation room).  The best performance is given by veteran character actor, Dan van Husen.  [There is[...]



Ju-on: The Beginning of the End (Ju-on: Owari no hajimari) (2014)

2015-08-02T07:00:09.382-05:00

Takashi Shimizu’s original V-cinema Ju-on (2000) has never been topped.  While the second Ju-on (2003) was entertaining, the best films to follow in the series were Ju-on: White Ghost and Black Ghost (2009), primarily because they were the most evocative of Shimizu’s original film.  Post Ju-on, interestingly, Shimizu went on to direct more metaphysical, Lynch-ian films like The Shock Labyrinth (Senritsu meikyû) (2009) and Tormented (Rabitto horȃ) (2011).  [His latest American film, 7500 (2014), appears to have a delayed release.]  In any case, I thought the Ju-on series was prime to die, but a new film has appeared from Japan, directed by Masayuki Ochiai and written by Ochiai and notable producer Takashige Ichise, entitled Ju-on: The Beginning of the End (Ju-on: Owari no hajimari) (2014).  At its heart, this new Ju-onis a remake of Shimizu’s original film.Pretty young Yui (Nozomi Sasaki) has been promoted from substitute teacher to full-time teacher.  During her first class, she notices, from the previous teacher’s roll book, that a particular student, Toshio (Kai Kobayashi), has been absent for the past seven days.  Scared of overstepping her bounds, Yui consults the principal and believes a home visit to Toshio is in order.  Her principal reluctantly agrees and tells Yui that her predecessor has recently died.  With trepidation, Yui visits the home of Toshio and encounters only the young boy’s mother, Kayako Saeki (Misaki Saisho), who reveals that her son and husband are not at home.  Yui visits an upstairs room in the house and she notices a closet completely taped shut at its cracks (a la the red tape in Kairo (Pulse) (2001)).  The mother’s creepy behavior and the taped-up closet forces Yui to flee from the home.  She begins to suffer hallucinations while teaching and having extremely vivid nightmares.  Her boyfriend, Naoto (Shȏ Aoyagi), fears for the health and sanity of Yui and begins an investigation of the Saeki home and its mysterious history.  Like the original Ju-on, Ju-on:  The Beginning of the End alternates between different periods in time, all involving doings at the Saeki home:  the opening scene of the film, rendered hand-held/”found footage” style, cryptically details the original event which may source the evil In the house; the second time period involves Yui and Naoto in the present; and finally, the last period detailed involves four high-school girls.  One of the girls’ sister is a real-estate agent and is having trouble renting the home, because of its haunted reputation.  Curious of this reputation, the girls visit the house, and each leaves the house to subsequently be overcome with paranoia and fear of a little ghost boy.  Quite a bit of time is devoted to episodes involving the high-school girls, and they are pretty weak, almost retreads of familiar J-cinema scare tactics.  It is extremely anti-climactic when it is revealed how this storyline relates to the present one involving Yui and Naoto.  Too much thought was put into this technique by Ochiai and Ichise.  Shimizu used this technique in the original Ju-on simply:  he showed three families occupying the house at different times with little exposition detailing when each occupied.  He used this technique for a disorienting effect and was highly successful.[...]